South River girls’ soccer reaching new heights with new goalie

0
238

Tiffany Fischer never played goalkeeper before this girls’ soccer season.

For the South River Middle School team, Fischer played in the midfield.

But when the freshman came out for the South River High School team in August, coach Don Minto saw her as a goalie.

At South River Middle School, Fischer was also a point guard on the girls’ basketball team and a starter on the baseball team, ahead of the boys.

During varsity soccer tryouts, Fischer showed the footwork of a soccer player, the leaping ability of a basketball player and the fearlessness of a girl who plays baseball. Those are all key attributes for a soccer goalie.  

“I put her there within the first week. She’s quick, has very good hands and doesn’t drop the ball, so she’s not giving up rebounds,” Minto said. “It was a combination of her athleticism and intellect for sports that made me try her in goal.”

Minto does not regret his decision. Through nine games in 2018, South River is 6-0-3 overall and 5-0-3 in Greater Middlesex Conference Gold Division play.

The Rams are in first place in the seven-team division, a game and a half up on Highland Park High School (5-1-2 in division play).

Fischer has seven shutouts in nine games. Three came in 0-0 ties that lasted 20 minutes longer than regulation. So, she has held opponents off the scoreboard for 60 overtime minutes this year, almost the equivalent of a full extra game.

“Even though I never played before, I was used to catching because of basketball, so I wasn’t afraid of it. Plus in baseball when you slide, you have to get on the ground, so I was used to that, too,” Fischer said. “It wasn’t as hard to get used to diving all over the place to keep the ball from going in.”

“Her instincts have really kicked in. She knows when to go for the ball. And she has fast reflexes,” said South River defender and captain, Hailey Zito. “She also has a very positive outlook and has just been a great contributor to the team.”

South River’s biggest victory was a 2-1 decision over Highland Park on Sept. 15. The Owls won the Gold Division the last two years and returned “a bunch of soccer/track stars” for 2018, Minto said.

“They are definitely the team in the division that everybody knows,” he added.

Fischer made seven saves in the overtime victory, South River’s first triumph over Highland Park in 10 years. In the first half, Fischer dove to block a shot and then smothered the ball to prevent a rebound.

“It was as if she’s been playing goalie for 10 years,” Minto said.

Now, Fischer may just play goalie for the next 10 years, or at least the next four.

“I like goalie better than playing in the field now,” she said. “Soccer has become one of my main sports because I feel better at goalie.”

Minto is also confident that Fischer will become South River’s varsity point guard and either a baseball or softball standout, whichever spring sport she prefers. But first, she has a soccer campaign to finish.

South River has a strong team in front of Fischer. The Rams have outscored opponents, 30-4, in their victories.

With Fischer backing everyone up, Minto’s club has a chance to go far in the Central Jersey, Group 1 state sectional tournament.

“I only carry 13-14 girls, so for us playing three games a week, including multiple OT games, I know my girls are exhausted by week’s end. There are bumps and bruises and everything seems to hurt a bit more,” Minto said. “But hopefully we can keep going.”  

“Everyone is giving it all they have,” Zito said. “We have some great players.”